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Mid-way through last year, Tigers Jaw all but disbanded, announcing that three out of five members were leaving the band for good. Soon after this, the band revealed they were working on a fifth studio album, and even stranger, that the album would feature TJ as a full band. Needless to say, there was some confusion from fans, as well as some questions as to why the group was bothering to prolong their break-up with a final release. Why not leave it at four stellar full lengths and go out on a high? The answer to that question is ‘Charmer’. Despite the fact that Tigers Jaw were effectively calling it quits, they still had ‘Charmer’ to make…and, thank god they did.
The record sets off with ‘Cool,’ a vacant indie rock tune with a persistent punk rock vibe and deliberately exaggerated emo influences. From the outset, there’s a very a steady but subtle hook and an unshakable likening to some of The Smiths’ most memorable work. The vocals sound lethargic and wearied, something that gels cohesively with the candid lyrical matter. The harried and unchanging riff on ‘Cool’ pushes the lead’s nonchalant, passive drawl along the way, and while it’s decidedly apathetic, there’s something counter intuitively appealing about it.
On ‘Frame You’ the atmosphere is understated and low key. While there is an instant appeal, due mainly to those pop sensibilities and cheery keyboard embellishments, the instrumentals on this track excel in their half ditched attempt at dissonance and energy. It doesn’t pack punch, but it is very, very cool. Tigers Jaw may be transitioning, but their metamorphosis is certainly not as clumsy as it could be.
Early on in the record we’re delivered ‘Hum,’ and if we were wondering if Tigers Jaw were going to make it as a two piece, the concept is suddenly easy to grasp. On this track, chords fall into place easily and intuitively. The riffs and melodies on Charmer may not be inventive, but nevertheless, the songs are sublimely effortless in their delivery. The airy and silky female vocals are complemented by the subdued male ones on frank lyrical one-liners like, ‘I’m starting to like the pain.’ It’s just a shame Tigers Jaw don’t use the delightful vocals of Brianna Collins to their advantage a bit more on this record.
On ‘Charmer’ the Brand New influences are glaringly obvious. Its dispassion and assiduous indie rock melodies are all tell tale signs of emo influences from that era. The dark and depressing is countered by light keyboard and guitar riffs, however, and the vocals get vintage and frictional with the sturdy strike and thump of the melody. Just like on ‘Nervous Kids’ Tigers Jaw simplify everything. The guitar melodies and piano chords are put together in a similar way on each track, with little variety to speak of. But, it’s not lazy, it’s clever. It’s a clean slate upon which the vividness of the various vocal and lyrical quirks can be heard.
Indeed, on ‘Divide’, which is similarly void of dissonance or assertiveness, TG aren’t imitating the old-school emo tunes they grew up on, they’re adding their own sass and character to an oddly catchy sense of misery and destitution. ‘Soft-spoken’ and ‘What Would You Do’ delivers a similarly disengaged vocal performance and economic melodic leads. It’s more than just shady vocal distortion and fuzzy guitar reverb; everything, including the eloquently delivered lyricism on ‘Teen Rocket,’ seems to stand out on Charmer.
Tigers Jaw made ‘Charmer’ for themselves; that much is clear. As a band going through a kind of metamorphosis, their final record as a five piece laughs in the face of future critics, who may or may not criminalise their stubborn, but smoothly transitioned disengagement from pop punk into a murky head space of impassivity, nonchalance and, strangely, an underwhelming (but still evident) sense of charm. Tigers Jaw, may be bluntly but eloquently bowing out on ‘Charmer’, but from the sounds of tracks like ‘Hum,’ there’s potential for the remaining two-piece to keep their disgruntled flag flying high.
2. Frame You
5. Nervous Kids
6. I Envy Your Apathy
8. Slow Come On
9. Teen Rocket
11. Distress Signal
12. What Would You Do